Wednesday, October 31, 2012

UPDATE: 27 hurt in Air Force Academy snow 'ritual'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 3:30 PM

The Air Force Academy has released a statement about this year's "First Shirt/First Snow" event. Turns out that the original injury tally was too low: Actually, 27 cadets were hurt, six of whom were taken to a local hospital.

Here's the release from spokesman John Van Winkle:

News Release #158
Oct. 31, 2012

CADET INJURIES OCCUR AT USAFA

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo., — On Thursday evening, Oct. 25, 2012, cadets participated in an unauthorized, unofficial practice known as "First Shirt/First Snow."
The practice occurs after the first snow of the season, when freshmen cadets try to throw their cadet first sergeant in the snow. The incident resulted in 27 cadets sustaining injuries. Six of these cadets were taken to a local hospital, and have since been released. The 21 other cadets received medical attention for bruises and/or lacerations at the cadet clinic.
Most cadets did not participate.
Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, Commandant of Cadets, upon learning of the incident, immediately disseminated information to the cadets and spoke with all cadets about the incident at two Commandant's Calls on Saturday.
"A relatively small number of cadets chose to take part in this unsafe activity. This incident was unacceptable," said General Lengyel. "Our Air Force expects better. I expect better, and I'm confident the cadets will learn and grow from this."

General Lengyel also emphasized with the entire Cadet Wing:

* Good military units set and enforce high standards and maintain good order and discipline;
* Incidents of this kind are not in accordance with good order and discipline and they are not condoned in the Air Force;
* We teach and practice Risk Management, where we analyze the risk for all activities, and activities like this are not worth the risk of injury or other serious consequences.

Academy officials are investigating the incident, and appropriate measures will be taken.

——- ORIGINAL POST, 12:55 P.M., WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31 ——-

Dana Born

After dealing with a sexual assault scandal in 2003, a religious bias controversy in 2005 and several cheating and drug-use incidents in recent years, the U.S. Air Force Academy apparently now is coping with a hazing-type incident so violent that 23 cadets required medical attention after the event last Thursday.

The news comes via an internal e-mail from Brig. Gen. Dana Born to academy department leaders, obtained by the Independent this morning. (Though its existence initially was news to academy spokesman John Van Winkle, he now says it appears to be authentic.)

“First Shirt/First Snow,” Born writes, is a longstanding tradition. But last week, she says, “A number of cadet squadrons did not keep things under control which resulted in 23 cadets needing medical care, from stitches to concussions to treatment of a human bite on the arm.”

A few random webpages shed a little more light on First Shirt/First Snow, but most seem to support the gist of this passage, available at an AFA Wiki page:

On the night of the first snow of the season, the smacks storm the first sergeant's room, kidnap him, strip him down to his boxers and carry him outside to drag him around in the snow.

Of course, fraternities, sports teams, clubs and even dormitory-floor neighbors engage in plenty of dubious traditions at colleges and universities. But you’d hope that our “officers of character” would refrain at least from biting each other.

Born goes on to say, “Obviously, this has gotten out of hand and cannot be repeated. There is no way we can condone or defend this.”

Van Winkle says the academy is working on a statement in response to the Indy's request for a comment on Born's e-mail message. We will post it as soon as we receive it.

In the meantime, here’s the full text of Born’s e-mail:

From: Born, Dana H Brig Gen USAF USAFA USAFA/DF
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2012 10:40 AM
To: DF_Heads
Cc: DF_Deputy_Heads
Subject: AFTER-ACTION: "First Shirt/First Snow" Tradition?

Department Heads/Deputies:

BACKGROUND: Per the Commandant —- On Thursday night the cadets carried out a ritual known as “First Shirt/First Snow”, a “tradition” that goes back to an unknown time in the past since we’ve added cadet First Sergeant’s to the Cadet Squadrons. This ritual has devolved to become increasingly violent, with significant numbers of cadets requiring medical care over the past two years. What used to be 4 degrees throwing the first shirt into the snow has turned into a brawl between upperclassmen defending the first sergeant and the 4 degrees trying to capture the first sergeant.

DETAILS: We’ve learned many cadets did not participate. Many cadet squadrons kept things under control. A number of cadet squadrons did not keep things under control which resulted in 23 cadets needing medical care, from stitches to concussions to treatment of a human bite on the arm.

BOTTOM-LINE: Obviously, this has gotten out of hand and cannot be repeated. There is no way we can condone or defend this.

WAY-AHEAD: Our Commandant, Brig Gen Greg Lengyel, held two Commandant’s calls this past Saturday and the message reached about 90% of the cadet wing.

A few of his talking points for us to reinforce with our faculty and cadets:
· Good military units set and enforce high standards and maintain good order and discipline.
o Hall brawls are not IAW good order and discipline and they don’t happen in the USAF. The Airmen don’t attack the NCO’s and the Officers don’t brawl with each other.
· In the Air Force we teach and practice Risk Management, where we analyze the risk vs. gain for a given operation.
o The gain of keeping a “tradition” and having fun is not worth the risk of seriously injuring a cadet (loss of PQ or commission).
· This was unacceptable and could not be allowed to happen again, but he left a window open for them to come to him with a proposal for how, in the future, they would execute this within boundaries of good order and discipline and proper risk management.

PLEASE SHARE MESSAGE W/ DF FACULTY AND STAFF: This could potentially still be a hot topic of discussion around the campus this week and I would appreciate any reinforcement of these Commandant’s talking points by Faculty and staff with the cadets.

DANA H. BORN, Brig Gen, USAF
Dean of the Faculty

Note: Reporter Pam Zubeck contributed to this post.

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